By Scott Shurtleff
hether it’s a beer garden or a flower garden that you fancy, they’ve got you covered.
The Trustees of Reservations oversee and preserve more than 100 properties in Massachusetts, making them available for public enjoyment throughout the year.
With 117 places and spaces scattered about the commonwealth, there is probably one near you.
Two local spots are The Fruitlands Museum in Harvard and Farandnear in Shirley.
Donated to the public in 2011, Farandnear is a splendid oxymoron beyond its name. Its description on the website reads, “Near enough for regular visits, but with a feeling of remoteness that will transport you from your cares.” But its dichotomy runs deeper than that. The 85-acre spread, with its 2.5 miles of walking trails, is one-part tidily groomed fields, flower-beds and tree-splays, while the surrounding forest is pristine and original to the Creator’s design: rugged and austere.
Also on the grounds, donated to the Trustees by Arthur Banks in 2011, is a new gazebo and a small golf course with midcentury clubs to knock a ball around. Throwback croquet wickets and horseshoes can also be borrowed from the antique clubhouse. The course is encircled by a sprawling “pinetum” (an array of conifers), with an identifying label on each one to help educate the curious arborists.
The only hint of modernism is a huge, stainless-steel hearth underneath the new gazebo, and real restrooms, plumbed and permanent.
With a tall and nearly invisible deer fence surrounding the entire landscaped area, there’s no chance of your leashed dog dragging you into the woods chasing local fauna. But if that sort of thing appeals to you, then venture into the deeper wilderness. There you will find beaver engineering, an abandoned cranberry bog, and a little hideaway ravine known as “Paradise.”
A return to the manicured green allows for tired feet to be soothed in the soft, cool grass near the visitor center, where the occasional wedding occurs and strangers become friends.
The places and spaces are an eclectic mix of buildings, farms, fields and woods, and it’s so special that Guy Hermann, the Trustees’ general manager for Greater Concord, confessed, “This is my favorite. It has so much of the spirit of Mr. Banks. It is beautiful, restful and inspiring.”
If it’s a wedding you’re looking for, then Fruitlands Museum is where you’ll likely find one.
“About 50 weddings per year happen at the Harvard venue, which spans 210 acres of rolling hills,” Hermann said.
“There is a spot along the entrance road where people stop just to take in the view. It’s the most beautiful view in Massachusetts,” he said of the perch that overlooks the Nashua River.
But inside the grounds of the expansive spectacle is even more splendor. And in keeping with the theme of contradictory attractions, it is exactly like Farandnear, yet completely different.
It is one of the oldest places in the Trustees’ purview, yet the youngest member. The 108-year-old compound was placed into the ward of the Trustees in 2016, becoming the 116th feather in the organization’s cap.
Like Farandnear, Fruitlands offers rustic treks through dense woods or easy strolls across manicured turf. Unlike Farandnear, Fruitlands has several buildings that offer even more discovery, including, of course, a museum of art, treasures and artifacts.
After all that trekking and exploring, a thirst sets in. So this year’s traveling biergarten exhibit has got you covered. The annual road show, co-sponsored by Notch Brewing, a microbrewery based in Salem, sets up at a dozen or so of the Trustees’ lands every year. In a schedule that changes from year to year, the biergarten will make a two-day appearance at Fruitlands this year, Saturday, Sept. 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 23, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“And,” said Hermann, “there will also be a large craft fair happening at the same time.”
In addition to the September biergarten at Fruitlands, a few opportunities are still available this season to catch the beer festival, including:
n Saturday, Sept. 8, noon-7 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 9, noon-6 p.m., at Powisset Farm, Dover.
n Thursday, Sept. 13, and Friday, Sept. 14, 4-9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, noon-7 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 16, noon-6 p.m., at The Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover.
n Friday, Oct. 5, 5-9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, noon-9 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 7, noon-6 p.m., at Chestnut Hill Farm, Southboro.
n Saturday, Nov. 3, and Sunday, Nov. 4, noon-4 p.m., at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, Ipswich.
But it’s not just beerfests and weddings that the Trustees’ properties offer.
Many of them are simple, rustic conservation lands with hiking trails and vistas. For example, Dexter Drumlin Reservation in Lancaster is a 38-acre expanse with a 311-foot drumlin -- an oval or elongated hill believed to have been formed by the streamlined movement of glacial ice sheets across rock debris or till -- overlooking the Nashua River.
Whatever your nature, there is a piece of nature that will suit you.